Founded in 2008 by three Italian natives, Vanto, is overseen by award-winning Neapolitan pizza chef, Luigi Peluso, alongside managing partner Santino Agrillo (former Sicilian detective), and head chef Filippo Perra (son of a butcher). Together, the trio created an authentic Italian restaurant that is everything you want an Italian restaurant to be; welcoming, passionate, and of course, mouth-watering.
Peluso has 25 years' experience working in professional kitchens as well as 15 years' experience in making wood-fired pizzas, while head chef Perra has 15 years' experience in kitchens. As a result, Vanto serves up an exquisite menu featuring quality and fresh dishes, including the world-famous wood-fired Naples-style pizza, classic pasta dishes, unique and traditional wood-fired sandwiches, as well as delicious traditional desserts.
The service was impeccable. Our waiter Santino (and owner) went above and beyond to make our dining experience memorable. He was welcoming and his passion for Italian food was captivating. He explained each dish with precision, passion and love. It was like listening to an opera. It was interesting to learn so much about Vanto's dishes. From learning how long it takes to create the perfect Vanto pizza dough to how to make traditional wood-fired sandwiches.
With Vanto's location inside the charming Queen Victoria Building, the decor was as lovely as QVB, as well as being cosy with splashes of old-time glamour and romance.
There were two seating options, indoors and "outdoors". The outdoor seating wraps around the beautiful cast-iron railings and overlooks below to ground level and across the QVD. Being located towards the end of the building, there was little pedestrian traffic, making dining enjoyable and peaceful.
The ambience was relaxing and romantic, as well as pleasant and soothing. The soft lighting made dining comfortable. Overall, the decor and ambience went hand in hand, both showcasing character and charm.
You know when you are in for a culinary treat is when the sweet aromas of fresh ingredients awaken your senses upon arrival. The kitchen is open five days a week and features traditional Italian family recipes as well as popular modern alternatives, such as gluten-free dough. It also features antipasti dishes, traditional wood-fired sandwiches, in-house made pasta, salads, traditional wood-fired pizzas, healthy wood-fired pizzas, and special wood-fried pizza.
The menu also includes desserts and an extensive beverage menu. It is seasonal and also includes daily specials.
We ordered Crostini Stracciatella, Pomodorini E Acciughe ($16), Pulled Lamb Wood-Fired Sandwich ($18), Pappardelle al Ragu ($26), and two small pizzas- Diavola ($17) and Salsiccia ($17). For dessert we shared Affogato al Tartufo ($12.90).
As the famous quote goes "you eat with your eyes", and each dish Vando delivered was pleasing and appetising to look at, bursting with colours and textures. Each dish had a unique taste and blends of flavours that captivated one's senses and offered a craving for more.
We started our Italian culinary journey with an antipasti (entree)- Crostini Stracciatella, Pomodorini E Acciughe- Crostini bread with stracciatella cheese, cherry tomato confit and anchovies.
As soon as the dish was presented to us, we were positively taken aback by its gorgeous vibrant colours and freshness. This dish took me to the sunlit days sitting by the beach, soaking up the atmosphere and watching the day go by.
It was incredibly refreshing, lively, and the flavours all married so well together. From the delicate creaminess of the stracciatella cheese, the crunch from the crostini, saltiness from anchovies, to the fresh sweetness of the medley cherry tomatoes, combined with the herbal freshness of the basil pesto, it was a wonderland of flavours and textures. The dish was exemplary, from texture, flavour and seasoning. It was presented beautifully with the taste matching the presentation.
Check out those gorgeous colours & delicious textures
Each element on the plate was a perfect unison. The soft creaminess from the cheese contrasted so well with the rich saltiness of the anchovies, add the addition of pesto, united the whole dish together with perfection. It was such a delight to eat, as it was delicate and a superb starter dish.
Santino explained this dish with great passion; 00 and wholemeal flours were both used to create a crispy dough for the sandwich. The dough is twice cooked, to create a delightful dish. First, it is cooked on its own in the wood-fired oven followed with it being baked again with fillings inside.
The wood-fired sandwich was unique and packed with flavour! The combination of the two kinds of cheese (mozzarella and whipped feta) with the peppery rocket and rich flavours of the lamb shoulder worked so well together from a flavour standpoint.
The lamb shoulder was cooked to perfection. It just melted in your mouth and did not lack any seasoning. I was surprised by how well this dish came together, and not one ingredient was overpowering. The mozzarella and whipped feta cheese combined deliciously and were not overly cheesy or too salty. The addition of rocket broke through the saltiness of the cheeses, and the rich (yet delicate) lamb added a texture to the dish. Overall, this dish was packed with flavour and comforting to eat.
Pappardelle al Ragu- Pappardelle pasta with beef & pork, slow-cooked ragu' and parmesan cheese.
I am a massive fan of pappardelle ragu, a fun fact- this dish was the dish I had with my partner on our first date! It is my favourite pasta dish of all time, and Vanto exceeded this love for pappardelle ragu (if possible).
Having tasted pappardelle ragu many times before, to date Vanto is the king of beef & pork pappardelle ragu. They have mastered the art of in-house made and al dente pasta. The pasta was cooked perfectly; it was tender, but still firm to bite, and easy to digest. The beef and pork ragu was hearty, flavoursome and had the right amount of seasoning. There were characteristics of red wine that complemented the beef and pork.
The ragu was not overly rich, and with pasta being al dente, the dish comes together like a perfect harmony. Overall, the dish was not just presented beautifully, it tasted phenomenal. It was comforting and indeed, a winter warmer dish.
The pizza dishes Diavola and Salsiccia were both cooked to perfection. Santino once again, passionately explained how the pizza dough is matured for 60-72 hours to present lighter dough that is filled with flavour as well as easy to digest. The crust of both pizzas was airy and packed with flavour, and based were impressively thin.
Diavola Wood-fired Pizza- Mozzarella, tomato sauce, salami, chilli, black olives, fresh basil, red onion, evoo.
This traditional pizza was packed with flavour. The hints of fresh chilli complemented the handmade tomato sauce and fresh basil perfectly. The melting mozzarella and saltiness from both the salami and black olives did not overpower the dish. The sweetness of the red onion smoothed the chilli and salty flavours, creating a powerful hit of classic aromatic flavours that awaken the senses.
Once this pizza dish arrived the notes of truffle oil filled the air and sent a tantalising ache to my senses. My taste buds were begging me to grab a slice(s) and feast! The instant hit of truffle oil was like music to my ears- well, in this case, a treat to my stomach!
The pizza had it all; the combination of the smooth, slightly tangy smoked fior di latte cheese with the fruity and nutty taste of parmesan cheese, mixed with the Italian sausage, sweetness from the caramelised onion, earthy flavours from the mushrooms to the distinctive taste of truffle oil, turned the humble pizza into a superb melting of characteristics and gastronomic delight.
Not one of the pizza dishes can be faulted. Vanto has created pizzas that will undoubtedly be hard to find anywhere else. From the delicious, delicate flavoured dough to the flavoursome fresh toppings, and the perfect cooking of each pizza, Vanto's pizzas a force to be reckoned with!
Affogato al Tartufo was our final dish! After experiencing an Italian culinary feast, we finished our food affair with Italian coffee (of course!).
Affogato al Tartufo- Hazelnuts semifreddo, with chocolate core, coated with praline, crushed meringue and espresso shot.
This dessert is a must for coffee and hazelnut lovers! The combination of the strong espresso with the nutty (Nutella) hazelnut flavours, takes the humble coffee to a whole new level! The creamy semifreddo with the textures of praline and crushed meringue mixed with the warmth of freshly brewed espresso and the rich chocolate core from the semifreddo was orgasmic!
There is no shortage of love and passion in either the dishes or service. Vanto offers a genuine Italian dining experience as well as authenticity. Whether you are having a romantic dinner date or a relaxed lunch, Vanto will undoubtedly satisfy. I cannot wait to return and try their other dishes!
Vanto is located within Queen Victoria Building, on Level 1, on Town Hall side.